A Travellerspoint blog

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish.

OF COURSE THESE ARE TOFU FISH.

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Unlike many (/most) of my previous entries, I am not writing this while backpacking on some unsuspecting cafe's wifi, or holed up in a library hogging the powerpoint as I charge a myriad of appliances, or even while attempting to snuggle (I think snuggle, he thinks OH GOOD I can CHEW YOUR HAND) with the beautiful blue heeler pup of Grove St, Nelson- I am actually, strangely, happily, briefly, kicking around in the ole' hometown of Yarrawonga, Victoria, Australia. I'm heading to Tassie next week which I'm sure will warrant some photos and musings all of its own, but this entry is still all about the land of the long white cloud.
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I spent my final three weeks (though I didn't know they were final at the time- helllooo last minute flight bookings) traipsing around the south island- armed with kilos of peanut butter, hiking boots, a rain jacket (oh west coast, your reputation precedes you) and my increasingly-beaten-up camera, I tore right down the west coast from Nelson and back up the east coast, stopping at some amazing campsites, some jaw-droppingly scenic vistas, and really, wherever the hell I felt like it.
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The first hike I took on was on the recommendation of a wonderful friend from Australia, Rose- who, after I slogged and puffed my way up to the hut, I found out had done this particular hike 3 or 4 times. For fitness. Heading up to Mt Brown Hut, I was surrounded by cloud- quite a claustrophobic experience- as I followed the ridge line with almost zero visibility, I had a great time (read: scared myself silly) imagining what dramatic cliff drop could be merely metres either side of my narrow path. That night, the clouds lifted and I sleeping-bag-hopped my way out onto the deck to marvel at the stars and then the stunning sunrise.
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Continuing down the west coast, I marvelled at the gnarly, gnarly surf- while Australia has its own justly deserved reputation for some crazy-big surf, New Zealand's west coast is just as chaotic- shore-dumping, log-wielding monsters crashed into rocky beaches, and I soon understood while I'd seen no surfers braving the wilds of the Tasman Sea.
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I breezed through the tourist mecca of Queenstown and straight out to the beginning of the Rees-Dart Track: a five-day hike recommended to me by an incredibly fit German who swayed me with promises of glaciers and relatively few fellow hikers. Sold!
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The hike was as body-breaking yet as beautiful as promised- I lucked out with fantastic weather and many of the huts to myself. The track is varied, studded with ready-made bouquets of brilliant yellow flowers and sweet alpine streams.
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Walking out to the Dart Glacier was a definite highlight, though it was more walking in to the glacier- so distracted by the other glaciers meandering down well above me, I wasn't paying too much attention to the apparently debris filled valley in front of my until a large chunk of ice crashed down metres in front of me as if to say, 'um, hello, that glacier you're looking for? That'd be me. Right here. Yup'
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Another highly-rated-by-the-German feature of this track was the recent appearance of a lake- caused by a landslip blocking the Dart River (which flows from the Dart Glacier that I played hide and seek with) a large part of the last day of the track is now underwater, drowned by eerie blue water and providing a muddy reminder that New Zealand is not the poised-on-the-centre-of-a-tectonic-plate-stable-as-stable country that Australia is.
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My other top pick for getting amongst it alpine style is the Mt Cook Alpine National Park- with the crashing of glaciers providing a constant and somewhat disturbing soundtrack, and Mt Cook itself soaring over surrounding peaks, I relished every second camping in its shadow. I took a day to walk up to Mueller Hut, a striking rusty red against the brown rocks and blue blue sky. After a sun-drenched lunch on the deck, I scrambled (literally) up to the summit of Mt Ollivier, which was Edmund Hillary's first major climb- so watch out Everest, I'm on your trail.
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While I more or less stayed well-clear of cities (which, given my lack of showers and laundry, I'm sure the general populace was pretty glad about) I did dip briefly into Christchurch- interested to see how the city was faring for myself. There are some awesome initiatives popping up- relishing the opportunity to pretty much remake the cbd from scratch. I wandered into a fruit shop where instead of paying with money, you pay with time- I waited two minutes for a locally-grown apple (it was based on food miles- the longer the food had travelled, the longer you had to wait), rued not having an iPhone so I could activate the outdoor dance stage where you plug in, put your music on and lo and behold lights are a flashin' and you got yourself a street disco, and loved happening upon awesome street art around every corner. That being said, the roads are still mostly closed, and for a Saturday morning all was strangely still and sans-people.
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Happily close to Christchurch is Castle Hill- perhaps the best bouldering in New Zealand. Despite lacking crash mats or a mate to spot me, I still had fun clambouring around and onto boulders, basking in the sun and watching paragliders soar far above me.
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Dear friends, I shall leave you here (pretty sure they should put maximum length restrictions on these blogs, or at least on mine) and shall hope to see many of you in person soon!

Love,
Lucy
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Posted by lucyfbaird 19.04.2014 22:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Summertime...

...And the living's easy.

all seasons in one day 20 °C

Hold onto your hats, folks- this one’s set to be a long’un.
I’ve been ever so slack with my writing recently, and therefore have accrued quite a backlog of bit ands bobs jotted in a ratty climbing guide, dot points hastily written on the back of my hand (only to cause head scratching and confused keening when I later see the smeared inky mess post-ocean frolic) and masses upon masses upon hard-drive-overloading-masses of photos. Here not be dragons, but instead tales of sunrise hikes, starlit blues jammin’, climbs climbed and sights seen. And also a fair whack of don’t-you-wish-you-were-here photos.
You’ve been warned.

My conception of time has changed recently- I’ve abandoned days and dates in favour of sunsets and sunrises. Since finishing up work about a month ago, I’ve fully given myself over to my gypsy alter-ego (ok, let’s be honest, she isn’t that alter) and have relished being able to get out for weeks on end- hence my somewhat sporadic email replies and oft-missed phone calls. Apologies, and all that jazz. I sit here today with that oh-so-distinctive-campfire-scent still curled in my hair, held in place by a least half the ocean’s salt (conservative estimate)- the remnants of a multi-day sea kayaking adventure in Marlborough Sounds region, a mere few hours to the east(ish(maybe)) of Nelson. I’m saving that story for last though, as it includes photos of dolphins and I know that’ll keep the crowds intrigued until the end.

After kitting myself out with all the latest and greatest in outdoors technology (read: kathmandu splurg), my housemate, a friend and I took to the (steep) hills of Nelson Lakes National Park. After oohing and aahing at the clear, deep blue waters of Lake Rotoiti, we clambered up the demanding Robert Ridge Route, trying to distract ourselves from our burning thighs with (somewhat out of breath) musical numbers and musings on why, exactly, we thought this was a good idea in the first place. The view from the top silenced us (as did the hefty amounts of chocolate we were shoving in our gobs) and we even managed to enjoy the next 6 or so hours until we reached the descent to Lake Angelus and Angelus Hut. Not to be deterred from trying out my new toys, I was the lone camper- which I delighted in as I pitched tent by the lake, admiring my rest stop for the night. The walk out the next day was challenging and long- starting with a steep descent down a scree slope, followed by many hours wandering down a valley before traipsing a decent third of the perimeter of the lake. However, the scenery was stunning, the river wonderfully refreshing as a swim stop, and the company grand.

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Lake Rotoiti

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Robert Ridge Route

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The stunning alpine Lake Angelus

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My camping spot!

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Ali and I got up at 4am to one of the clearest, dark, star-studded skies I have ever seen. We hiked back up to the ridge to find the valleys full of cloud, and the lake pretending it was a mirror.

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Heading back down the valley the next day.

The same friend and I (the wonderful, wonderful Gem) tackled the Cable Bay Walkway- a stunning track that runs from just outside of Nelson to Cable Bay, starting at a beach and meandering through pastures and forest to finish high on a ridge overlooking the breath-taking vista of Cable Bay. We shared our walk with goats, sheep, cows, a cranky old bull and about a million sandflies. A spontaneous mid-afternoon decision, we didn’t give ourselves many hours before sunset but we made it back in time for the last half hour or so to be bathed in that wonderful pre-sunset golden glow, which makes everything look warm and inviting- even cranky old bulls. AND I could justify eating my weight in a delicious bean-spinach-toast-avocado concoction afterwards, so THAT was an achievement all on its own.

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The start of the walkway.

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It may have taken me all summer, but I finally made it over to Paynes Ford, Takaka, for some of the best sport climbing, nay, THE best sport climbing, that New Zealand has to offer. (Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Haters, come at me). My housemate (the wonderful, wonderful Ali) and I loaded up his van with rope and quickdraws, harnesses and helmets and set off over the hill to the stomping grounds of Golden Bays finest hippies and climbing bums- Hangdog Camp. Hangdog is a place that people come expecting to stay mere days, and emerge, blinking, into the sunlight of three weeks later with tendonitis, no skin left on their fingers and a dazed, happy grin on their faces. As we were checking in, the manager told us to pay when we left- with a cheeky glint to his eye that told us it probably wouldn’t be when we were expecting. Cue two weeks of amazing climbing, river swims, vegan goodies from the nearby Takaka, blues and Britney Spears sing-a-longs by the fire (don’t judge) and becoming a part of the furniture of and the family that is Hangdog camp. I made some amazing friends, and met some amazing people with stories to match. I never took my camera to the crags with me, so instead I offer some photos of the graffiti in the toilets- which I could’ve (ahem did) spend long enough reading to provoke concern in anybody waiting outside.

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Hangdog Herb Garden

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Takaka, in a mural.

Finally, dolphins. And penguins. And jellyfish. And starfish. And other fish.
My most recent get-out-amongst-it was the aforementioned sea kayaking venture- with another wonderful Ali and his wonderful (I’m starting to think I don’t know any other adjectives for describing my friends) gal Emma, I took to the high seas and pillaged (read: peacefully plodded) around Tennyson Inlet and Pelorus Sound for 4 days earlier this week. We started from Gem’s bach in Cissy Bay, which is at the end of the windiest road ever (fact). We island-hopped and bay-hugged, marvelling at the (somewhat disconcerting (seriously I almost got vertigo)) clarity of the water and the mish-mash of tropical forest and beachy scrub that clung to the sheer cliffs, studded with random patches of pine plantation (say wha?) and big, cleared areas for grazing. Our campsites were water access only, and we were the only inhabitants both nights- so of course we went wild... with a small campfire on the beach and cards. A definite highlight was on the second morning, when a pod of around 60 dolphins (finally, she gets to the dolphins) was spotted on the horizon- we sprinted to catch them, losing feeling in arms and running out of breakfast, to find them actually coming towards us! They stopped to play around the kayaks, darting under and around and provoking squealing from all parties (and also I may or may not have stopped breathing), and doing all their very best tricks- the classic jump, the body-slam-into-classically-jumping-buddy, and the jump-to-back-flop that was particularly favoured by a stylish dolphin sporting seaweed draped around his/her fin. When they tired of our lack of tricks in response they took off for the other side of the bay... leaving us to realise we’d paddled with them alllllll the way back to where we’d started that morning. A coffee stop was immediately called for, and heartily seconded and thirded. Credit as noted for the following photos goes to Ali and Emma- they managed to keep breathing during the dolphin-scapades to get some amazing photos, and also just generally rock at the whole photo thing more than yours truly. (Emma gets amazing pictures of shags, Lucy photographs a leaf on the beach. Ali gets awesome pics that-tell-stories of the girls navigating, Lucy finds pretty shells and preserves the memory of them forever on film.)

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Heading into Cissy Bay [photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

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Setting out!

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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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Girls navigating.
[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

Dolphins:
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

The final day:
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]
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[photo credit: Ali Mitchell/Emma Baines]

As I finish this up, the sun is doin’ its thang and setting- which is getting earlier and earlier with the approaching winter. Makes for a pretty picture from my driveway though!

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Next week I’m off South- I’ll be back to a sporadic internet presence for the next month and a half as I start to wind up my time here across the ditch (yes, yes, maybe maybe maybe I’ll be back in Aus around Mayish. Month at Arapiles, anyone? Just putting that ole’ idea out there...). I’m looking to return to Paynes and bust some more fingers before I leave, and also check out the much-lauded coffee scene of Wellington (preparing myself before diving (enthusiastically) back into Melbourne’s), as well as rounding out my South Island travels with a sunrise Milford Sound kayak, some more thigh-burning hikes, and whatever create-your-own-adventures I can squeeze in before the cold drives me home (or to the snow).

Until next time, amigos! (That university Spanish hasn’t gone to waste, no sirree). I’ll attempt to keep my next entry under multi-volume tome length, though I make no promises.

Love, and starlit blues-
Lucy.

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Posted by lucyfbaird 14.03.2014 00:13 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

41.2708° S, 173.2839° E

Nelson, New Zealand.

sunny 24 °C

I want to share with you all some exciting news-

I have EYEBROWS! Now, to your normal brown haired, haz-brows beauty, I understand this is not news at all but a daily trial of plucking and pruning, but for me, dear reader, a ginger with blonde as blonde brows and lashes, my sudden acquisition of two definite arches above my eyes is indeed blog-worthy.

What ridiculous fad has she embraced, I can hear you worrying. Has the henna of days past made a resurgence? Did someone take liberties with a sharpie while she slept? Oh good god, she hasn't HOME TINTED them has she?! You know, I wouldn't put it past her...

The truth is as follows. After just over a month here in Nelson, my face is so brown, and eyebrows so bleached blonde, that lo and behold they appeared all on their lonesome, allowing me to raise my eyebrows incredulously, or crinkle them in laughter, or raise them skyward in surprise.

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Nelson is a truly wonderful beachside town reminiscent of many such towns at home in Aus. With a population of about 46,000 people plus the many campervan wielding tourists, it surprises me how small it really feels- riding my bike along the beach to work is a game of recognising cars of people I've met and spotting friends out paddle boarding. Settling in here was easy and fuss-free, a process hurried along by the incredibly welcoming community of kiters, bikers, climbers, trampers, yogis- you name it, if it's outdoorsy there is bound to be someone stopping by for coffee on their way to give it a shot. So far I've managed to faceplant, sideplant, and buttplant going off a kicker at a cable park, capsized a boat learning to sail, capsized a paddle board getting a bit big for my boots and trying pivot turns, relished getting chalk under my fingernails at the climbing gym and drooled over the map of an extensive cave system meandering down from Mt Arthur.

My foray into the Abel Tasman well and truly explained what all the fuss was about- I got a bit carried away with my camera and took about a billion photos. I've culled them down for you- these were all taken my very first weekend here, when I road tripped up to Wainui Bay for a kiting weekend away.

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A group of us from Nelson headed up on Friday, enjoying the windy drive over Takaka Hill into 'hippy territory'- let the fisherman pants run free! Takaka is well-known for some of the best sport climbing in the country at Paynes Ford, and also for the many alternate lifestyle seekers who call the upper Abel Tasman home. It is certainly isolated, which I think does nothing but add to its charm.

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When the wind didn't kick in on Saturday we went for a kayak around some wee islands, and enjoyed watching seals play around the rocks, with seabirds periodically diving down for a feed. After a well-earned lunch I headed off on the Abel Tasman Track, with the promise of a nudist beach and some amazing views. I didn't find the nudist beach, but I did find my own private beach, where I sunned and swam and frolicked before tramping back through the hills to dinner, starlight and fire poi.

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We also were lucky enough to end up on Jacques Cousteau's old boat- which has been converted into a coffee shop! Being in a rural area as we were, I was hesitant in asking for soy in my iced coffee- only to have the eccentric lion-haired owner laugh, and offer hemp milk, brazil nut milk, almond milk- and if I gave him five minutes, he could whip up some hazelnut milk for me.

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Kiting has lead to some other great adventures- we ended up in Marahau (special mention to A.Box and her bathtubs under the stars- I'll be heading back to check that out for sure) after a day tripping around to the Riwaka Resurgence (where the Riwaka river resurfaces after flowing under Takaka Hill) and were lucky enough to have wind- the abundance of amazing kitable beaches around here astounds me.

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The Riwaka Resurgence was also awesome- freezing cold oh-my-god-I-think-my-body-just-went-into-shock-how-do-I-breathe-again-?! water forced squeals and screams as we cannonballed into Crystal Pool, only staying in long enough to appreciate the clarity of the pools and then leaping back onto rocks to sun ourselves like seals.

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A hike closer to home, Nelson boasts to be the very centre of New Zealand- not strictly true, but a fun hike up the hill a hop skip and jump from mine.

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This is the river behind my house- compare the sunny and the Middle-Earthesque mist on a rare cloudy day.

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As I'm sure you've gathered, I couldn't be happier with my perch for the summer. I've been lucky enough to already have some cherished visitors both from Auckland and Aus, I've made some amazing friends (including a blue heeler pup that lives belongs to my housemate), found all sorts of activities to keep me busy and happy. It is a rare delight to not have to worry about leaving- I haven't booked any tickets from here, so can let my plans gel as naturally as I like. Harwood's Hole certainly looms in my future (give it a google image search), as does some kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds and hopefully some good ole multi-day getting-lost-in-the-wild tramps.

A very Merry Christmas to everyone- whether it is hot and sunny or snowing, I hope everyone has a wonderful day with family and friends or blue heeler pups and adventures.

Peace, Lucy.

Posted by lucyfbaird 19.12.2013 12:48 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Adios, Auckland!

2 and a half weeks and counting.

sunny 20 °C

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Spring has well and truly arrived here in Auckland, heralding both the end of uni and the end of my stay here. As I write this I am surrounded by the chaos of a half-packed room- I haven't seen my floor in days, nor, unfortunately, any of my socks. Littered around are scraps of paper crammed with Chinese characters- while the Tri Week of Hellish Hellness (as I named the last three assessment-packed weeks of semester) has passed, there are still two exams looming between me and complete undergraduate freedom.

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-My to-do list from the Tri Week of HH.

Once these two exams are done and dusted, I'm off down to Nelson for the summer- I'll be working kite instructing at KiteSurf Nelson, and just can't wait for the sun, sand and surf. Nelson is at the top of the South Island, sandwiched between the Marlborough Sounds and the Abel Tasman National Park- a veritable feast for the outdoors. I'll be playing around there until probably Feb/March- though anyone who knows me also knows the only thing concrete about any of my plans is the fact that they aren't.

My parents came over to visit about a month ago now, and I had a great time showing them around a city and country I've come to know so well. We braved an intense storm front to head up to Northlands- fighting to stay grounded in the face of gales at Cape Reinga, dolphin-searching at Bay of Islands, slathering ourselves in mud at Ngawha Springs where the water changed the colour of sterling silver jewellery, and fording rivers to bathe in the grandeur of Tane Mahuta- a 51.5m Kauri tree named for the Maori god of the forest.

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-Driving up North, we happened up Euphoria Cafe in the middle of nowhere- vegan cakes and a resident wizard. Need I say more?!

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-Cruising around the Bay of Islands

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-Cape Reinga

After our wind-blown adventure they teamed up with my Aunt Debbie and explored the Coromandel Peninsula without me for a few days- while I reluctantly dove back into Auckland-life to make sure I hadn't missed anything too crucial at uni or any shifts at work. Once they returned we headed off to Rotorua- where I can attest that my mother took more photos of mud bubbles than me. The weather was perfect and sunny- which we were able to fully appreciate on our 'Welcome to Rotorua Arrival Hike' which I promised would take 20 minutes- and took 3 hours. And we didn't even make it as fas as I wanted to go. The reason for my abysmal time estimation skills was that the last time I did that trail I was on my mountain bike- turns out riding is faster. Much, much, faster. Who'da thunk?!

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I had a great time playing tour leader- up hill and down dale, we tramped our way into toned-thigh glory.

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We spent many an hour wandering around geothermal areas- the following photos are from Craters of the Moon, a dramatically named site that was used to be farm land, until they began the geothermal power project nearby which released ground pressure and one day the farmer found his paddocks sunk into a bubbling, steaming luna-esque landscape.
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We also ventured across to Taupo- a lakeside town that serves as the jumping off point for many alpine adventures. Accordingly, the last couple of times I've been there it has been on desperate soy-milkshake hunting missions post epic climbing journey- the shores of Lake Taupo harbour some of the best climbing on the North Island, though often at the end of 2 hour approach hikes.

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-The view across Lake Taupo- Snow-capped Mt Ruapehu is on the horizon.

I'm still sporting the battle scars of the weekend-past trip to Taupo's shores- A group of climbers from uni celebrated the long weekend and end of uni with some of the best climbing I've done here so far- a brilliant mix of trad and sport routes, on a Maori Reservation called Whanganui Bay. We climbed by day, did yoga on the lake side, compared lingos by the fire (American: 'Doona?! What the hell is a DOONA?' Me: 'What do you mean a COMFORTER? IT'S A DOONA!' Kiwi: '...are you guys talking about duvets?' American/Me: 'WHAAAA?!') and basked in the sunshine and knowledge that another semester had come and gone. Sadly I didn't take my camera with me so have no photos to share, though apparently there is a video of me screaming my lungs out on a rope swing we set up across a gorge on the way down (I seriously didn't know I could make those sorts of noises) and also a photo or two of me napping in the sun against trees, or rocks, or climbing partners.

As always, with imminent leaving of a place the nostalgia starts to set in- past of the reason I've put off writing for so long is probably because I know it will be the last time I write from Auckland. To think I've been here since February blows my mind, and the fact that I'm finally finishing up uni even more so. Next time I write will be from sunny and windy Nelson- look out for some amazing photos, but if the photos aren't enough come on over and take some of your own!

All my love and hoping everyone is well,
Lucy xx

Also, pretty much all of these photos are courtesy of my mother- I have been slack with my camera again. Thanks Mum!

Posted by lucyfbaird 16:53 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Guru of the Snowy, Snowy Mountain.

Perhaps my calling in life?

all seasons in one day 3 °C

Let me paint you a picture.
A girl, of blonde curly locks and a suspiciously tan face for both her colouring and the time of year, sits wrapped in a flannel with a fuzzy, blue blanket draped across her lap, cupping a warm mug of tea in both hands and watches the flames dance in an open fireplace but metres from where she sits. She contemplates writing on her blog to her dear friends across the ocean, and telling them all about how she has taken a leave of absence from university and settled in Wanaka, working at a small organics store where she serves steaming herbal teas to locals, has an unlimited supply of cashew, cauliflower and coconut soup and drinks too much organic coffee. She has made a myriad of friends by hitching most days up to one of three snow fields, either with kites, skis, or on her most daring days, a snowboard. Apres ski is hot lemon and honey tea at another local cafe with other hitching friends (cars are for people with money and she is not among those) and on weekends house parties abound where the first question asked is, ‘what is your name?’ but the second is, ‘ski or board?’. Time is measured by how many runs are left before the lifts stop, and how much more dancing can be done before she can’t stand up anymore, and collapses, laughing, into a friend’s spa under a blanket of stars, only to do it all again the next day, and the next, and the next.

Forgive me my fantasy there, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t contemplate almost constantly such possibilities while I was in the South Island these past three weeks. Internet-less and phone reception-less, I was surprised (and mildly concerned) about the amount of emails I had on my return thinking I had done just as above - with friends expressing concern I had donned my ski jacket, shirked responsible adult life and become an adventure-seeking bum, because honestly- no one would be surprised.

My humblest apologies for a complete lack of blog entries over the last couple of months- I was caught in a storm of assessment that really didn’t warrant writing about (‘And today, I tried to cram a ridiculous number of Chinese characters into my poor, weary brain. Again. Tomorrow’s forecast- more of the same’) and when I finally emerged, blinking, into the crisp sunlight of holidays I immediately jumped ship for the South Island and immersed myself in snow snow snow. However, said snow has given much fodder for my return to the blogosphere, and so here we are!

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4:30pm on the 1st of July heralded the long-awaited end of my exam period, and also the beginning of harried packing and last minute organising- which included, but was not limited to, attempting to eat all of my remaining food (regrettable choice before a yoga class), questioning past Lucy’s logic at booking a 7am flight, saying goodbye to other exchangies who would be returning home in my absence and trying to fit all my snow and kiting gear in an insufficiently sized pack. Despite such complex and varied hurdles (oh, first world problems), 7am the next morning saw me checked in for my flight and ready for my first taste of the much lauded South Island.

I flew into, and spent my first and last few days in Queenstown. Living up to its reputation as the rowdy party animal of the South Island, bars outnumbered everything but outdoors stores, every night was a big night and Fergburger, an iconic burger joint, was always brimming with hungover hoards.

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My housemate from Auckland, a wonderful Canadian named Amanda, and I had a ball mucking around in snowboarding lessons, ice skating, dancing and hunting out Bikram yoga classes on frosty Friday evenings. We delighted over the amazing mountains that ring Queenstown, pondered how cold the lake would be to swim in (too cold, was the consensus), huddled over hot hot (and pricey pricey) coffee and watched many a dreaded busker doing their thang.

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We capped our time off with a massive dancey night out (I was certainly dressed to impress in a thermal singlet and hiking boots) then went our separate ways- Amanda back to the land of all things maple and myself over the Crown Range to Wanaka, and 2 weeks of throwing myself at the mountains in any way possible. With a willing and able partner in crime, Skip (a Wanaka native whom I instructed with last summer in Aus), we hiked up to glaciers, shot down hills on skis, hauled ourselves back up hills with kites, explored on bikes and mountain boards and even, sometimes, radically, on our own feet.

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While Queenstown may talk really loudly about how much skiing it does and how hardcore it hits it, Wanaka is getting out there, taking on cliff drops and crazy backcountry chutes. Quiet, small, and so much more relaxed, you wouldn’t immediately realise that Wanaka harbours a ridiculous amount of pro-skiers and boarders. Almost every car is a Subaru, decked out with roof racks packed with skis and boards. Wearing your ski jacket around town is not only normal but encouraged (because it is so freakin cold), and Mons Royale, a locally designed merino thermal range, is the height of fashion (and I know ALL about fashion).

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I lost track of days as I quickly fell head over heels for Queenstown’s unassuming neighbour. The weather did all its very best tricks- from heavy snow falls my first few days, to ridiculously clear nights of stars for forever, to lazy foggy mornings or ominous storm clouds boiling on the horizon. The snow was as varied- I went from 30cm of never-been-touched powder while kiting in the bowls of Snowfarm, to glimpses of dirt and sliding around on ice (which does nothing for my skills) during an afternoon at Cardrona. I met a silly amount of Australians (are there any of us left in Aus?!), but I also met a silly amount of awesome Kiwis, Canadians, Brits, Germans, all there for the same reason- snow, sweet snow.

Returning to Auckland has been a shock to my system- ski jackets are no longer the norm and my feet are boiling in snow boots that were just perfect for Wanaka’s sub 5 degrees. Uni started yesterday- with a diary already chock-full of assessment dates and some really hard classes coming my way. (I totally didn’t realise my Spanish linguistics class was taught in Spanish (FOOL Lucy!). In the first class, when my teacher was defining what a word actually was, he argued that the textbook’s idea of it being a unit of language with a blank space either side of it wouldn’t work because of how WE speak, and oh how I felt like interjecting and saying it is simply because SOMEHOW Spanish speakers DON’T BREATHE AT ALL WHEN THEY ARE SPEAKING. EVER. But I couldn’t say that in Spanish, so held my silence... something I feel I will be doing a lot of in that class.) However, all of my classes do look like they will be really interesting, and challenges may mean I don’t blow off class for activities quite so much this semester.

Maybe.

My love to you all, hoping you are well and happy, whereever you are!
Lucy, apprentice mountain guru .

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Posted by lucyfbaird 23.07.2013 13:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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